Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Brief Encounters: parallel parking

I've been spreading a little kindness around the world lately, for a feature: showering colleagues with compliments, helping lost tourists and chatting to neighbours like I was born to it. Random acts like this, not surprisingly, strengthen our connections with people and make us happier.

More interesting is news that happiness is contagious.
Research from the US suggests three degrees of separation of positivity: our good mood affects not just us, but our friends, their friends and even their friends.

I was reminded of this a few days ago. I was trying to parallel park in front of a cafe filled with onlookers, and after ten minutes of getting no closer to the kerb gave up in a huff, leaving the car a foot from the pavement.

A man leapt up. "You're not gonna leave it like that are you, love?" he said. I nodded. "Give me the keys." As I handed them over (while simultaneously undoing decades of feminist progress) it occurred to me he might just drive off, but of course he didn't. It was a random act of kindness that forced me to trust him, and made me smile for the next two hours. I wonder if my own meagre acts, in a causal, butterfly-flapping-its-wings way, somehow prompted it. I like to think they did.

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